Recently, my daughter and I had a discusion that made me realize how much she is growing up -- and how that will affect how she feels about her nut allergy. As she gets older, she wants less input from me on how to manage her activities (well, she is officially a "tween") and that spilled over into a discussion about the FAAN walk coming up in Chicago this weekend.
We've never been to this walk. Usually, it falls on my wedding anniversary, and we've had plans that interfered with us participating. This year, though, the weekend worked for us. A few weeks ago, I asked my daughter if she'd like to attend.
I was surprised by the vehemence of her response, which was a resounding NO. When I asked her why not, all the kids there would have food allergies and she'd feel supported, she had an interesting take on it.
She told me that joining an event revolving around food allergies would only emphasize to her that she's "different." She told me that she just wants to be thought of as a normal kid, not as a kid having a food allergy.
She also told me that I don't understand what it's like to have to worry about food at a friend's house, or when we go out to eat. She said she knows about the "secret" candy stash I keep on a high kitchen shelf and that she feels bad she can't have something that I can. (Busted.)
Basically, she told me that she appreciates my support but that she has to handle the food allergy thing as she feels best.
It was an eye-opener to me and I wonder if some of you have heard similar things from older kids with food allergies. My daughter is right: this is her condition and I need to respect her feelings about it. I don't blame her for wanting to feel like a "normal" kid. Even though I've assured her that she is a "normal" kid, anything little thing that makes a kid feel different is a very big deal to them. All of us can remember back to grade school and middle school, when "fitting in" was about the highest calling you could have.
It tugged at my heart, to be sure, when I thought about how right she was. She needs to "own" her own allergy. And the last thing I want to do is force her to participate in something that doesn't feel right to her, even if it is a very good cause. She's young enough not to grasp the ways a walk like this can help her and kids like her, and just old enough to be sensitive about it. Maybe someday her views will change as her understanding grows.
Now, she knows about this blog and she said it's OK with her. (She thinks it makes her "famous.") Still, I will be respectful of her here, too.
So, this year I will donate to the FAAN Walk for a Cure, but I won't walk with my daughter. Maybe we'll be there next year, maybe not. Either way, it will be her choice and I'll be where I always try to be: on her side.